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Tuareg - Il Guerriero del Deserto

Tuareg: The Desert Warrior
Desert Warrior / Tuareg / Tuareg - Die tödliche Spur

Italy/Spain/Israel 1984
produced by
Vincente Escrivá, Luigi Borghese for Roll Film Productions, Aspa Producciones Cinematográficas, San Francisco Film
directed by Enzo G. Castellari
starring Mark Harmon, Luis Prendes, Ritza Brown, Paolo Malco, Aldo Sambrell, Ennio Girolami, Antonio Sabato, Giovanni Cianfriglia, Claudia Gravy, Manuel Pereiro, Romano Puppo, Emiliano Redondo, Massimo Vanni, José Yepes, Mario De Barros, Paul Costello, Michael Schneider, Kasimir Berger, Enzo G. Castellari, Ian Sera, Ottaviano Dell'Acqua, Riccardo Petrazzi
screenplay by Alberto Vázquez Figueroa, Vicente Escrivá, Tito Carpi, Enzo G. Castellari, based on the novel by Alberto Vázquez Figueroa, music by Riz Ortolani

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The Sahara desert: Gacel (Mark Harmon), a noble and proud Tuareg warrior, grants two strangers who have been wandering through the desert abode, but soon enough soldiers come and demand him to hand over his guests. To the Tuareg though, hospitality is holy, and Gacel refuses - so the soldiers take them by force, shooting the younger of the couple and taking the older one, Abdul El Kabir (Luis Prendes) with them.

Gacel cannot live with the shame of having not offered a guest to his house proper hospitality, so he first goes after the bedouin guide (Giovanni Cianfriglia) who has betrayed his guests to the soldiers in the first place, and after having killed him, he does everything in his power to a) have revenge on the Captain of the soldiers who invaded his home and b) free Abdul El Kabir, and thanks to his enormous endurance, his exceptional knowledge of the desert and his talent for guerilla warfare (all of which comes ratehr natural to a Tuareg warrior), he succeeds on both accounts. Only then does he learn that Abdul El Kabir is an overthrown political leader who wants to be reinstalled as president of the country to finally bring justice to all - and even if politics never interested Gacel in the first place (up until recenmtly he thought the land was still under French rule and there were no frontiers in the desert), he starts to have respect for his guest. Gacel now wants to take Abdul El Kabir straight through the worst part of the desert to a neighbouring country that grants Abdul El Kabir safe passage, because taking him through this part of the desert is the only way to shake off his enemies, but still, when they've almost made it, the army seems to be waiting and even though Gacel puts up a fierce fight, everything seems to be lost ... when the army of the neighbouring country arrives to side with him and blow up his pursuers.

Gacel's mission now seems fulfilled - but he learns that the current dictator-president of his country has kidnapped his wife (Ritza Brown) and son (Kasimir Berger), so gacel has to go to the capital and send the president a warning to release them within one week otherwise he will kill him. Learning about that, the dictator orders his men to hunt down and kill Gacel ... and they almost succeed, wounding him badly, and he only barely survives in hiding, waiting for the one week he has given the president to pass.

In this week though, the president is overthrown and Abdul El Kabir is installed as the new president ... but at a parade in his honour, Gacel, yet ignorant to this president's actual identity shoots him. Only when he sees Abdul El Kabir dieing does Gacel realize the grave error he has made ...


Though most often advertised as little more than a guerilla warfare film in the wake of the Rambo-series, Tuareg: The Desert Warrior is actually one of action auteur Enzo G.Castellari's most personal films, an intelligent and introspective excursion into the archaic yet noble mindset of the Tuareg and their clash with a civilisation they neither want nor need, with the action taking backseat, which results in a relative lack of elaborate setpieces Castellari has become famous for over the years (though all of the action is still very nicely staged). At the box office the film pretty much bombed, most probably due to three main reasons:

- For the action crowd, the film was a tad too intellectual and not action-centered enough.

- For the world cinema crowd the film was not authentic enough (e.g. there are no real Tuareg in the cast, at least not in main roles,a nd tebh film wastes little time in documenting the daily routines of the Tuareg, something the world cinema crowd seems to just love). Plus, there's too much action and the film isn't boring enough.

- And last but not least, in 1984, Italian adventure movies were no longer as much in demand as 10 years earlier, as by the early 1980's, a brainless moloch called Hollywood Blockbuster had unfortunately started to take over your local movie theatre, even in Europe.

That all said, Tuareg: The Desert Warrior might not be Castellari's best movie (that's probably still Keoma and always will be), but it's an interesting, intelligent, well-made and well-told piece of action cinema that is actually offering an alternative to the same-old, same-old.



review © by Mike Haberfelner


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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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